Israel has carried out air strikes against Hamas military targets in Gaza after incendiary balloons were launched into Israeli territory.
This represents the first major violent exchange between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of fighting last month. It is also the first flare-up since a new coalition government came to power this weekend, led by Naftali Bennett, who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister.
On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said they had struck military compounds in Gaza City and Khan Younis. It came after incendiary balloons were launched from Gaza in the early hours of the morning, causing fires in Israel. There are no reports of any casualties from either the balloons or the air strikes.
The launch of the incendiary balloons came after far-right Israeli ultra-nationalists held a controversial march in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The Jerusalem Day flag march marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, but the march was delayed due to last month’s conflict. The new coalition government approved the march with a new route. Prior to the march, Israeli police cleared the route of Palestinian protesters, firing stun grenades and injuring at least 27 people.
Videos posted online showed some of the marchers, mostly young men, chanting “death to the Arabs”. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid – who, under a deal with Bennett, will become Prime Minister in 2023 – condemned the footage.
“The fact that there are extremist elements for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable,” he wrote on Twitter in Hebrew.
“It is inconceivable how one can hold the Israeli flag in one hand and shout ‘Death to the Arabs’ at the same time.”
At least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in last month’s conflict. In Israel, at least 12 people were killed, including two children.